Archive for November, 2009

November 24: It rains on the yellow and ochre alike

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on November 24, 2009 by theartbar

I remember it was a rainy late November night, although the raindrops were fat and pleasant, and it wasn’t overly cold for what was technically early winter.

As for the Art Bar, I was barely there, dashing in and out, leaving Jacob Scheier a little bewildered, no doubt, as I rushed off.

Hot-Sauced Words host James Dewar stepped in to record readings and interview poets. An excellent batch of photos, once again, from the night’s host, Cynthia Gould.

Stephen Humphrey

Barbara Myers

Ottawa poet Barbara Myers says her literary philosophy is captured by her poem, “Yellow Calls Us to the Things of the World”, which ends the third and final section of her poetry collection, Slide. The book combines impressions and recollection like a series of photographic slides (for everyone who remembers these clicking, old-fashioned machines).

Here is an excerpt:

…Yellow yields./Mediates between stop and go.// …. In deciduous maturity,//yellow releases the tree/from its green youth, lets go

minor gods of luminescence:/ wait, it says. Wait. Look.

Myers, a long-time poetry editor for Arc, Canada’s National Poetry Magazine, writes poems steeped in contexts of family, nature, landscapes from Canada and elsewhere, and other poets, such as Wallace Stevens and Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer.


Jacob Scheier

Toronto son Jacob Scheier dropped in from New York City, where he is researching the Jewish socialist movement, to read poems from his collection More to Keep Us Warm, which won the 2007 Governor General’s Award, plus some new works. Despite his commitment to a far-reaching social history project, Jacob can’t help writing about the personal, he explained to James Dewar.

His poem “You’re the Kind of Woman” was recently added to the anthology Leonard Cohen: You’re Our Man.


Kate Marshall Flaherty

Kate Marshall Flaherty read poems which addressed the yoga of everyday life and big issues such as suicide and global warming with equal eloquence.

She and James Dewar discussed writing poems on unpaid parking tickets and the generous act of letting words go.

Excerpt from, “When the Kids Are Fed“:

The kids squeak in the bunk-beds above
as I sit in the window rocker watching
the return of the red-winged blackbird
to his oily twig; the chaos of the day
settles under the steady watch of the Big Dipper.



November 17: Are we not men?

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on November 17, 2009 by theartbar

This week’s host, Myna Wallin, described the night as an “all-male revue”, one of the Art Bar’s rare departures from mixed-gender lineups.

So what is the male condition, according to November 17’s eclectic lineup of male readers?

Apparently they pen short poems about long-distance relationships, temper intellectualism with zaniness, think bitterly of squirrels while cleaning eavestroughs, make atrocious Shakespearean puns, channel their feelings through movies and novels and hide online pornography from their wives.

Two out of three wear glasses, according to a limited statistical sampling and at least one of them is named Rocco.

And the Art Bar is happy to have them, at least when they’re as clever as these three brainy, and let’s admit it, disarmingly sensitive guys.

In the in the interest of fully disclosing every glitch in the podcast, please note mysterious signal-t0-noise effects which plague recordings of Jason and Rocco’s readings. Analog gear is apparently still stuck in the age of radio. Also it is likely that too much male energy causes strange magnetic effects. Stay tuned for official explanations.

Stephen Humphrey

It’s kind of a personal in-joke for Jason Guriel to say he will read a “few short poems” because, he admits, pretty much all his poems are all short. Jason’s compact, clever poems were packed with references to Shakespeare, movies, hand puppets and dead novelists. Jason aimed for big ideas while undercutting himself with with self-deprecating humour.


Poet, columnist, Art Bar board member and ESL teacher Rocco de Giacomo is a prolific writer and traveler. The poems in his collection Ten Thousand Miles Between Us, convey his zeal for far-flung journeys, but also his love of nesting, or at least his acceptance of maturity. His live readings reveal a writer with an ear for the music of words and a habit of wearing his heart on his sleeve.


Torpor Vigil Industries founder Steve Venright once again titillated and amused as he deadpanned through surreal, pleasantly confounding wordplay replete with references to hallucinogens. Steve congratulated the strangely silent audience for properly commemorating the Czecheslovakia’s bloodless Velvet Revolution of 1989. He also paid tribute to psychedelic thinker and 2012 forecaster Terence McKenna.


November 10: Oblique travelogues, Gothic imagination and pastel chalk

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on November 10, 2009 by theartbar

Phoebe Tsang

Phoebe Tsang impressed with a performance done entirely from memory.

She read poems from her new book Contents of a Mermaid’s Purse, some of which are adorned with a Gothic imagination.

from “Cemetery on Tsz Wan Shan:”

How do the dead feel, fenced halfway up
the mountain in no man’s land? A crowd
of jostling headstones, all crammed together.
How do they like the view? Between
shady foothills and clouded peaks where
electric pylons weave through mist
like horsemen in a science-fiction apocalypse.


Moez Surani

Moez Surani shared work from his debut book Reticent Bodies, arresting poems of the personal and political which offer a unique contemporary lyricism.

from “Realpolitik:”

I will not mourn the dying and deformed
because an idealist cannot be happy.
And I want to be happy.



(No, you’re not going cross-eyed. This photo wasn’t taken at Clintons. Myna Wallin snapped this shot of Nathaniel during a previous reading at another venue.)

The amusingly irreverent Nathaniel G. Moore read poems from Pastels Are Pretty Much the Polar Opposite of Chalk and the Catullus-infused Let’s Pretend We Never Met. He delivered some off-the-wall insights about Toronto:

from “10 Things I know About Toronto for a Fact:”

This town is positioned in a way that hurts.
This town needs an enigma.
This town is much like haunted lasagna.
This town’s real estate fonts are ghastly.
This town needs serious werewolf awareness and improvement.
The religious banter at Dundas square needs dance-theatre choreography.


(audio will be added shortly)

– Notes and interviews by Clara Blackwood

November 3: Join us for our metaphysical podcast

Posted in Art Bar Poetry with tags , , on November 3, 2009 by theartbar

Let me tell you a story of poetry and loss.

I was crossing the pedway in Spadina Station when I heard a busker play Fur Elise on the guitar. I couldn’t resist recording a few moments of the music echoing through the tunnel. Then I hastily stuffed the recording machine in my jacket pocket and proceeded to the northbound platform.

The subway doors chimed just as I came down the stairs. Obeying a longtime urban instinct I rushed to aboard the car. There was a clattering noise as the doors whooshed shut.

Only as the car pulled away did I process the fact that my gadget had jumped from my pocket, along with two interviews for the Nov. 3 reading.

Unless I can track down the undeserving soul who has all that poetry and music you likely will never hear my interviews with Carla Drysdale and Maleea Acker.

Unless, perhaps, if you listen very deeply. Find a quiet place. Breath quietly. More quietly, please. Good. Can you hear? It begins with strange echoing music.

Stephen Humphrey

Carla Drysdale

(Photo by Stephen Humphrey)

The poems in journalist and poet Carla Drysdale‘s collection Little Venus marries confessional rage with a concern with poetic forms such as the crown of sonnets. Carla says the tendency of the book Little Venus and its poems to involve the number of four was unintentional, but, nonetheless she recognizes symbolic implications of four in her book, such as completeness and resolution. The emotionally harrowing journey of the book’s speaker ultimately leads to resolution, and perhaps even redemption.

Maleea Acker

Maleea Acker is a thoughtful poet from Victoria, BC who’s not afraid to invoke nature imagery in her poems. Her latest work, The Reflecting Pool, was released this October by Pedlar Press.

from “Stillness”

I wish I could promise a concern
that would remain. That I might promise an attention
which gave its word not to wander, not to lull. There,
the rustle of the wing, the molted feathers dislodging,
the flight across the terrace; there,
the song stitching the portal through which all of it comes;
there, the entry, watery, dark, flowing,
and we are in and it has flown.

Susan McMaster was at Clinton’s to introduce her 9th poetry book, Crossing Arcs: Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me. As the title suggest, Susan’s latest poems focus on the her experience with the progression of her mother’s Alzheimer’s. Her mother, who was lucid throughout much of the writing process, gave her blessing to the collection and has attended launches.